How to write SEO-friendly URLs

To the causal web surfer, a URL is just that little thing they have to type into their browser to get to a website. 

But you’re not a casual web surfer. 

We’re SEOs and we need to care about the little things. Even URLs.

Why? Well, did you know that URLs are more than a handy way to find websites, they are also useful in SEO-best practices? 

Yep. URLs can be optimized for SEO, and the experience of users on your website. In this guide, we will take you through the steps of building an SEO- friendly URL, and dive into how URLs play a key role in your SEO

What is a URL? 

I know you’ve seen URLs before, but what are they?

In short, a URL is a human readable IP address that computers use to communicate to other servers. A URL consists of a few key components: a protocol, the domain name, and a path.

These are pretty technical terms, so if you’re feeling woozy don’t worry. Let’s take a close look at each one. 

Protocol

For a web browser, the protocol will always be http:// or https:// (with the s standing for secure). 

The protocol is an important aspect of the URL because it notes how a browser should read information about a page. 

Aside from the standard web browser example listed above, there are various types of protocols. Some of the most common protocols you may encounter are malito: (which tells browsers to open default mail) and ftp: (which handles file transfers).

Domain Name

This is the part most folks think about when they think about a URL. The domain is the defining piece of your website’s address.

The domain name is the text that comes between the “www” (commonly called the subdomain) and the “.com” (also called the top level domain).

Here’s a picture to make this a bit easier to visualize:


If you consider the top-level domain a category of sorts for a website, the domain name would be the specific location. The domain name is an essential component of the URL because it is the human-readable location of a website.

Path/Sub-directory

The last piece is the path.

The URL path is what comes after the “.com/” and directs the browser where to go.

Think of the web as a massive phonebook. First the browser needs to identify the domain, and then the specific path underneath that domain. It’s like looking up a town in a phonebook for your state, and then an address inside that town. 

It’s the same idea. 

Why do URLs matter for SEO? 

The right SEO-friendly URL will absolutely play a key role in improving your rank in google search results, so don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. But ranking is not the only reason that URLs matter for SEO… here are a few key reasons that you will want to note: 

Improved User Experience

We’ll cover the best practices a bit later in the post, as a preview most of them revolve around making your URLs clean, readable, and succinct. 

Those are all things that make for a good user experience. 

URLs that follow the above best practices are just easier to read, remember, and share. That creates a better experience for people on your website which will result in better rankings.

Increased trust 

Call me old fashioned, but a URL with mixed caps, lots of special characters, and other odd features just seems less trustworthy. 

Tell me, which URL would you trust?

centori.io/Se0-BeST_Practice$-t0-rank_your_websITe_Fa$t

Or

centori.io/seo-best-practices-to-improve-your-rank-fast

Yeah, I’d trust the second one more too. Remember the EAT principle (Expertise, Authority, and Trust). Your URLs are a great way to build trust with your audience. 

If you get stuck, just ask yourself “would I feel comfortable clicking on this URL in an email from a stranger.” If the answer is “hmm not sure” your URl could use some cleaning up.

Improved shareability

Good, clean URLs are just easier to remember and share. 

Whether it’s linking to your website, or sharing your blog posts on Twitter, you want your website to be as easy for people to remember and share. This may not have a direct SEO tie-in, but it’s good for getting more traffic and that is always important.

How to structure a URL for SEO

So now that you’re a URL master, what does this have to do with SEO?
Tons. 

Google is on a mission to return the best content for any given query. As you can see, a big piece of your content is the URL it’s on. If the URL cannot be found, or puts people off then your content has a serious disadvantage in search.

Here are some simple steps to follow when ' writing an SEO-friendly URL for your site: 

  • Remove any special characters (*&$)
  • Avoid using numbers in your URL 
  • Remove any superfluous words (they make your URLs longer than they need to be)
  • Try to use a focus keyword, but don’t force it in
  • Add keyword modifiers (best, top)
  • Use only lowercase letters in your URL (and do not mix cases)
  • Use hyphens instead of underscores
  • Keep it short and sweet

If you follow these few easy steps, you will have a URL of good-quality and also SEO-friendly! Just make sure to keep your URL concise.

Fortunately, most content management platforms (CMS) auto-create URLs based on your page title, but it’s important to pay attention to these principles before you publish your next page/blog post.

Are shorter URLs better for SEO? 

Ah the age old debate.

Well maybe not exactly, but it is contested in the world of blog writing and SEO. 

Let’s settle it here: shorter URLs are in fact better for SEO, and will rank higher in search results than a longer URL. 

A shorter URL is easier for human readability and consequently is also easier for a search engine to read and break down. 

Overall, a shorter URL is better for user experience because it is easier for users to type out. Sometimes simple and concise goes a long way, and in the case of writing a URL for SEO, shorter is definitely better!

What do I do if my URLs are not SEO-friendly?

If your URLs are not SEO-friendly, it’s time to update them. 

Why delay? The sooner you update the URLs the sooner your site’s user experience will improve, and from there all sorts of good things will follow.

Before you go ahead and update all your URLs there is something you need to know. Google accrues PageRank on a URL (think of it as a score they give to each URL on the web for ranking). Updating the URL means all that PageRank is lost and the URL starts from scratch.
Don’t do that.

Change the URL, but then create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. This will transfer the PageRank to the new URL so you don’t miss a beat.

So how do you create SEO friendly URLs?

Let’s sum this post up with the following best practices you should follow with your URLs.

  • Try to keep your URLs as simple and concise as possible. 
  • For readability purposes, use hyphens when necessary to separate words. Do not use spaces, underscores, or any other characters to separate words in your URL. 
  • Always use lowercase letters in your URL. There have been issues with uppercase letters causing issues with duplicate pages and content. For instance, centori.io/Blog and centori.io/blog could be seen as two separate URLs.
  • Avoid keyword repetition/stuffing in your URL. 
  • Rather than have your blog on blog.doman.com, host it on domain.com/blog. This is called using a subfolder rather than a subdomain. It’s all the same domain, but there is evidence Google will see two subdomains as separate websites.

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